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We're Off on Another Adventure
and the fun begins in Palo Duro Canyon

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On March 1, 2011, after months of planning, Randy and I set out on another six-month adventure - with California as our main destination. With only a slight apology, we've been so busy enjoying the freedom from "normal life" that I'm only now, weeks later, getting around to posting some blog entries about the trip so far. The other excuse (if I need one) is that, although we're investigating the best mobile Internet options for our trip, until now, we're relying on free wi-fi whereever we happen upon it.

Three days after departure, we had to admit that we were embarrassed to call ourselves shunpikers. Our desire to get miles between us and Ontario (and any chance of cold weather) meant we stuck to driving the Interstate highways. With all our overnights spent in Walmart parking lots, we didn't exactly qualify as true boondockers either.

Interstate speeds also meant the camera hardly came out on those first three days.

Gateway Arch, St. Louis, MO

A quick snapshot as we pass through St. Louis

The ten-hour long driving days were made more interesting by listening to a Librivox mp3 recording of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It's the first time we've tried this and really enjoyed it. We figure, eventually, we can make our way through all the classics that we've just never got around to reading. If this interests you, check out where a wide selection of audio books is available as free downloads.

The Interstate highways, of course, don't usually provide optimum scenic views. But have you ever noticed that the change of terrain seems to coincide with the state boundaries? Is that why they are drawn where they are? For instance, when we hit Missouri, we immediately encountered the hills of the Ozark mountains which lasted pretty well all the way to the Oklahoma border. After entering Texas, the terrain immediately changed to typical Texas scrub brush.

Crossing the Texas panhandle, just east of Amarillo, we saw billboards advertising hike and bike trails in the second largest canyon in the USA. We had never heard of Palo Duro Canyon State Park but how could we resist and invitation such as that? We left I-40 to explore the park and when we saw campgrounds far below on the floor of this colorful canyon, decided we needed to camp here too.

Randy at Palo Duro Canyon

Overlook at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

When we saw the canyon and realized the campsites were on the canyon floor, we quickly decided we needed to stay here for at least one night.

Spanish Skirts

These colorful red formations - aptly named Spanish skirts

Camp View Palo Duro

View from Palo Duro State Park - our first campsite of the trip.

The following day we enjoyed our first hike of the trip - an amazing six-mile, round-trip hike on Lighthouse Trail.

Lighthouse Trail Hiiking

The first hike of our trip - to Lighthouse Rock.

Lighthouse Rock
Lighthouse Rock

Don't Try This At Home, Kids!

A young, fit couple passed us on the trail. When we reached the rock we saw them climb up a steep trail and perch themselves on the edge. You'll see them in this photo along with the trail ascending on the right. Of course we had to try this too.

On top of Lighthouse Rock
Young couple sitting on top of rock

What we didn't realize is that, as the trail rounds the back of the rock, the last 12 feet is a rock climb requiring a long reach and one miss-step would result in an almost certain fall of perhaps 200 feet with a very hard landing.

Not willing to be shown up by youth, Randy had to try it. I have no fear of heights but I wasn't willing to risk cutting my trip short before it started. Luckily for all concerned, Randy made it both up and (more nervously) down so all is okay.

Stopping at this park wasn't in our plans - we had thought we'd be half way through New Mexico by day four but, as soon as we started shunpiking, we knew our plans had turned into mere suggestions. With this impromptu stop, the trip had morphed into our usual and preferred style of travel. Leaving the Interstate highways (and any notions about plans and schedules) behind, by day five, we are overjoyed to, once again, proudly call ourselves shunpikers.

Days On The Road At Time Of Writing: 4
Camping Costs To Date: $12.00

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